Systems: Where do I start?

By Dr. Addison Killeen

July 18, 2023

I get questions all the time about how daunting an operations manual looks when trying to start putting one together. Sometimes new clients on DSN see others who have huge manuals or online folders, and they get overwhelmed. However, everyone started at zero; so, here is my quick guide to Systemization. Start with these three things and slowly improve from there.

1. Downtime Protocol

Usually in everyone’s day, there is a time when the phone is not ringing, the patient did not show up, or there is a break in the action. It is during this downtime that a team member will have free time to get other tasks done. While this is an opportunity for them to go to the break room or check their phone, we should create a system where they have a downtime protocol: a list of items they need to get done.

This list can be cleaning different places in the office or it could be calling overdue patients. For some hygienists who have good relationships with the patients, it could even be calling on overdue treatment plans and trying to get the treatment scheduled with the doctor. In any case, this downtime should be scheduled with things that help out the practice so that no one can sit there saying, “I don’t know what to do right now.”

2. Daily Checklist

The next key to start systemizing your practice is to make sure that everyone in the practice has a specific set of duties they do for each day. This list is unique to each position and ensures that all tasks in the practice are done each day.

After this person has all these things done, they can then take a picture and text it to their manager/leader. This keeps them accountable so that everything is completed, but it also means that nothing can ever be forgotten. If it is on the list, it will get done!

Tactically, you will want each position to have its own sheet unique to that person’s job. If that person is sick or gone for the day, someone else has to complete their jobs. You can laminate these sheets, printed on different colors of paper, and then use a permanent maker to make notes on them. Alcohol wipes then clean these sheets to be ready for the next day’s usage.  

3. Pictures of Setups and Rooms

Sometimes when we are in the middle of a procedure, a certain instrument is missing. Or, sometimes the room is set up slightly differently which makes the procedure go a little differently. In order for your practice to achieve the best systemization possible, you will want to make sure you take pictures of the ideal setups for all clinical procedures and rooms. This will include great pictures of your sterilization, lab, operatories, and waiting room. From a procedure standpoint, this will include all fillings, crowns, implants, root canals, and denture appointments.

If you wanted to get even more detailed: on each procedure picture, you can also list the exact instruments and supplies needed to make sure that everything is available for you.

Overall, systemizing to a high degree will take time and many hours of effort. However, the payoff will be more profitability and less stress in your life; we know from experience that if you take these first three steps in the process, that you can see results in just a few short days or weeks.  Good luck and reach out to us if you need help stealing systems that we have created in the past!

Join DSN today to get access to my full operations manual that I use in my own practice. And, check out my 60 Days of Systemization Series to get a head start on your systemization process!